For three-and-a-half weeks, Central Christian College junior, Olivia Ingram, traveled to Chiang Rai, Thailand for her junior practicum.

“Since I’m an elementary education major, we have to spend 90 hours in a school observing for essentially three weeks of class time,” Ingram explained.

Ingram said she wanted an experience she normally wouldn’t get in the United States; and she got just that in her Thailand classroom. She left on May 4 and returned on May 29.

“It’s one of those experiences that I don’t know if I’ll have again. But I knew I had to do it,” she said.

Ingram said she quickly adapted to her surroundings in Thailand, thanks to her contact Caroline Camons.

“I was fortunate enough that she was my mentor throughout the whole thing. She had been in Thailand for a year now. But after a while, you pick up the general vibe of the place after a while. It’s a really relaxed, open, friendly country,” she said.

Ingram taught fourth and fifth-grade students who were English language learners, which was difficult for her to combat at times, she had around 25 students in each class.

“Some of them are better at it than others, especially if they’ve been learning it since kindergarten,” she said.

On her first day of teaching the wifi went out.

“The wifi in Thailand is a little bit spotty, so there were days including the day I taught my first lesson that it didn’t work at all,” she said.

She taught language arts lessons along with math, but was open to whatever the teachers needed her for. Ingram explained that the Thailand school system uses the American system, which made it easier for her to teach the students.

“They do a lot of the things I’m already familiar with. They do the same structure and everything, but you have to accommodate a lot of things. It was tough with the English language learners at times because it impacts the other areas. If the students didn’t understand the language, and everything’s taught in English, then it’s kind of a problem sometimes,” she said.

A highlight was the excitement of her students when she was teaching them that day.

“Whenever I would teach a lesson, they’d all cheer — I loved that. I was there for three weeks and they really grew on me after that short amount of time, they were really sweet to me,” she added.

Her time in Thailand showed her being a teacher is all about rolling with the punches.

“I think the biggest lesson I learned is you have to be flexible. When you’re teaching, you run into a lot of different things and especially when you have a mix of cultures — you have to be ready for everything,” she said.

Ingram was originally going to stay in the teacher’s dorms, but instead had a room on campus with a local dorm assistant and interesting meals.

“The school had a mix of a lot of different meals. They had Thai, Korean and Western food. Sometimes I ate food I didn’t know what it was, and some of it was good but they really like spicy foods — I avoided if it was red,” she laughed.

After her experience in a different country, Ingram said would possibly teach in another country some day.

“I’m definitely interested in it, but it has it’s own unique challenges as about everything does; especially with all the English language learners that you run into being in a different country. But it’s definitely an option I’d like to explore,” she said. 

Contact Brooke Haas by email on bhaas@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her on Twitter @ MacSentinel.